The effectiveness of germicidal wipes and ultraviolet irradiation in reducing bacterial loads on electronic tablet devices used to obtain patient information in orthopaedic clinics: evaluation of tablet cleaning methods

Published:April 11, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2020.04.014

      Summary

      Background

      Electronic tablet devices are commonly used in outpatient clinics to obtain patient information for both clinical and research purposes. These devices are often colonized with bacteria; there are many cleaning methods to reduce this bacterial load.

      Aim

      The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate whether regular cleaning with either germicidal wipes or ultraviolet (UV) irradiation leads to lower bacterial levels compared with irregular cleaning.

      Methods

      A randomized blinded trial was conducted of tablet cleaning strategies between each patient encounter in orthopaedic clinics. The cleaning method was randomized to either germicidal wipes, UV irradiation, or cleaning only when the tablet was visibly soiled. Research assistants (blinded to the treatment) obtained bacterial cultures from the tablets at the beginning and end of each clinic day.

      Findings

      Using germicidal wipes between each patient encounter vs no routine cleaning resulted in a marked decrease in the amount of bacterial contamination (risk ratio (RR) = 0.17 (0.04–0.67)). Similarly, using UV irradiation between each patient encounter led to significantly lower bacterial contamination rates (RR = 0.29 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.09–0.95)) compared with no routine cleaning. The majority of bacteria identified were normal skin flora. No meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was identified and only sparse colonies of meticillin-sensitive S. aureus.

      Conclusion

      Electronic tablets used in orthopaedic trauma clinics are colonized with bacteria if no routine cleaning is performed. Routine use of either UV irradiation or germicidal wipes significantly decreases this bacterial burden. Providers should implement routine cleaning of tablets between each patient encounter to minimize exposure to potential pathogens.

      Keywords

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